Authorities are expected to announce Monday if a body that was found Saturday in Mount Rainier National Park is that of a Seattle woman who didn’t return from a hike last Wednesday.
Ground crews searching for Karen Sykes discovered the body of a woman in the same general area where she was reported missing. The body was taken to Tacoma for an autopsy and official identification by the Pierce County medical examiner.
Sykes was reported to park officials as overdue at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday by a hiking companion who said Sykes went ahead without him when they reached snow at an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet at 3 p.m. June 18 on the Owyhigh Lakes Trail.
On June 19, ground and air searches focused on the length of the eight-mile trail, officials said. Air searches were scheduled for when weather improved. Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said the search area was in steep, rugged terrain with snow cover starting between the 4,500 and 6,500-foot levels.
Sykes, a freelance writer who wrote about hiking in books and for publications, is described as a knowledgeable hiker and had adequate survival gear to be on the mountain overnight in the event of an emergency.
Wold said safety concerns for Sykes and ground crews included snow bridges, tree wells and steep, wet and slippery terrain.
A ground searcher was injured on the first day of searching for Sykes when he fell through a snow bridge. He was airlifted to safety.
The German Shepherd Search and Rescue of Washington State, King County Explorers, and Everett, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue personnel are actively involved in the search efforts. An MD-530 helicopter from Northwest Helicopters in Olympia, Washington was used in support of the incident.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, an injured climber was airlifted off Double Peak near Eastside Trail on June 19 following a search in response to a spot locator beacon. The climber suffered injuries to his leg that prevented him from walking out under his own power, park officials said.